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Benedict Cumberbatch Says He Thinks He May Have Been ‘Patient Zero’ For COVID-19

Benedict Cumberbatch has opened up about not being sure whether he contracted COVID-19 and his role in a film about a man who was detained at Guantanamo Bay without charge for 14 years. 

“I was incredibly ill, to the point that when all this COVID stuff suddenly broke in the new year, I was thinking, ‘Oh my God, was I actually patient zero?’” Cumberbatch told The Independent’s James Mottram in an interview published Saturday. “I was so ill — it was borderline pneumonia.”

The actor said he threw up between takes while filming “The Mauritanian” in Cape Town, South Africa, toward the end of 2019, but that he pushed aside the discomfort to complete the project.

Cumberbatch’s independent film company, SunnyMarch, produced the movie about the trial of Mohamedou Ould Slahi, who the U.S. government accused of recruiting for al Qaeda. Slahi was held at Guantanamo Bay from 2002 to 2016, and his 2005 memoir about the torture he experienced there inspired the film. 

In it, Cumberbatch plays Lt. Colonel Stuart Couch, the military prosecutor who refused the assignment of prosecuting Slahi. 

Participating in the film, Cumberbatch said, made him recall the immediate aftermath of 9/11 and the global environment of fear that had birthed the Guantanamo detention camp. The star said he felt “quite strongly that Guantánamo doesn’t have a place in our world,” and added that he was “going to plead” with President Joe Biden to close the prison if given the chance. 

“It’s an atrocious own goal, I think, for the free world to be incarcerating people through extraordinary rendition, torturing them and extracting confessions they think are then usable in prosecution,” Cumberbatch said. “It is a really dangerous, unnecessary and ineffectual place … and enough people have suffered there.”

Read the full interview here.

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